Turkeys 6 to 10 weeks old are ready to go on the range, which should be clean and separate from range used for chickens. Adequate shelter is very important. A good practice is to place feeders on clean ground, away from the roost, and to move the feeder each week. The roost should be moved 3 or 4 times during the growing season, as sanitation is of the greatest importance.
Most permanent pasture plants are small-seeded and rather slow in becoming established. Use of these pastures during the year of seeding should be delayed until the plants are firmly rooted and growing vigorously. Turning birds into a perennial pasture too soon after seeding may result in poor stands as many plants will be killed by trampling and others will be pulled out by the grazing birds. Late fall grazing of new seedings should be avoided. It usually is necessary to mow new perennial pastures once or twice during the first year to control weeds. This mowing should be done when the weeds are flowering or before seeds develop. The cutter-bar of the mower should be set three or four inches above the ground to cut the weeds with a minimum of injury to the young forage plants.
In a survey made before starting this experimental work, it was found that there was considerable confusion in the minds of many poultrymen as to the relative efficiency between the mash and pellet methods of feeding. A review of the literature on turkey nutrition and methods of feeding failed to disclose any studies which would be of assistance in answering this question. As a result, an experimental program was outlined to investigate several methods of feeding growing turkeys.
“Don’t let them out in the rain, they’ll stare up into it and drown…” Our experience with turkeys has been completely the opposite. While most poultry species aren’t exactly bright, we find that turkeys are lovely, personable, and most important for the self sufficient homesteader — extremely efficient converters of grain and forage into delicious meat. In 5 months, a turkey can grow from a few ounces to 20-30+ lbs.
For several reasons the number of turkeys in the United States is decreasing. According to the census of 1900 there were in the United States at that time 6,594,695 turkeys, while by 1910 the number had decreased to 3,688,708. Poultry dealers throughout the country state that the decrease has continued ever since the last census. The principal cause of the decrease is that as the population of the country increases farming becomes more intensive, and every year the area of range suitable for turkey raising is reduced. Many turkey raisers have given up the business principally because their turkeys range through the grain fields of adjacent farms and thus cause the ill will of the owners thereof.
The wild turkeys of North America can be considered a truly miraculous group of birds. Their populations numbered in the untold millions prior to the arrival of the European settlers in the 1500’s. The next three hundred plus years saw them nearly exterminated due to rapid habitat loss and totally unregulated hunting pressure. They actually became extinct in over fifteen states where they had previously been abundant and their decline continued well into the twentieth century. Luckily, with the passage of the Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937, along with the foundations of the Wildlife Society and the National Wild Turkey Federation there has been a steady reestablishment of our nearly national bird, which it would have been had it been left up to Benjamin Franklin. Relocations and the careful management and stewardship by both wildlife experts and sportsmen along with farmers, ranchers, and landowners have been largely responsible for the advancements in the numbers of their populations and the locations of the wild turkeys.